What an introduction to Peru!

An eventful day today. Apparently the hip hop groups from yesterday are called Reggaeton?. There were also 3 wedding parties in the Marriott in Las Condes, Santiago last night – I met one bride and groom in the elevator who were leaving their party at 6:45am, as I was leaving for the airport.

The LAN flight to Lima is delayed for one hour due to a technical fault, but otherwise a pleasant flight. Arrival in Lima not so good. As you walk through the lounge area there is a large LAN promotional poster, with a group of photographers in a canoe toting large, expensive cameras. Remember this for later on. Immigration is a pleasure to deal with, and I collect my bags and am directed to the scanning machines in the arrival area. I am collared by Customs for carrying two cameras. Apparently the rule in Peru is one camera and 5 rolls of film (wtf?). The worst case is they want me to pay customs duty of 19%, the best case is to lodge a guarantee of 19% that is reclaimable on departure – ie a bond that will prevent me from selling the cameras in Peru. It takes the customs official an hour to complete the paperwork, complete with a first draft attempt that is later discarded and serial numbers for all of the gear. He takes my word for it that the cameras are worth $3000 (a fraction of their value), and therefore wants a guarantee of $US570. In cash. Off to the ATM I go, conviently placed in front of the Customs cashiers office, which happily (a) works; and (b) dispenses $US, albeit only in $200 at a time. The cashier explains that I need to be at Lima airport 3 hours before I depart the country to reclaim the guarantee, which leads to a discussion that that will be physically impossible, as I am flying Cusco – Lima – Quito on connecting flights with only 50 minutes between flights. Thankfully I have a printout of my flight schedule, which leads to 3 other people getting involved as they discuss how I will be able to collect my guarantee. I also show them my Customs export declaration from Australia that shows that I took the gear out of Australia with the intention of bringing it all back in again.  At this point the group consensus is that it is all too hard, the paperwork is dispensed with and I’m waved on my way. By now the baggage area is deserted, and I assume that the company organised to collect me from the airport will have thought that I have missed the plane and left. But no, there is a sign on a board with my name on it outside in the arrivals area – I think I escaped from Customs about 3 minutes before the transfer service gave up on me! The transfer service is very organised, and has me at the the Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores well before the room is available, so I retire to their excellent cafe to await check-in. Enough excitement for one day – coffee is needed!

It is an easy walk from the hotel to Larco Mar, a touristy centre on the cliffs above the gravel beach at Miraflores. The shops hold no interest, but the paragliders soaring on the sea breeze dodging apartment buildings above the busy roadway certainly do. Miraflores sits on a line of cliffs, which provide perfect launching places for a thriving paragliding business. There is a narrow, crowded pathway along the top of the cliffs that lead to Parque del Amor, which is a good spot to stop at watch the paragliders taking off from Parque Carosio. As I watch, one of the paragliders either loses his footing or loses the breeze and slides 10 metres down the (thankfully grassy) cliff face. It is a testament to his skill that he is (a) unhurt and (b) able to use the breeze to pull himself back to the top of the cliff.

Lima is a difficult city to get around. There isn’t a metro/subway, the only real options to get from Miraflores to the historic city centre is to take a taxi, or take a tour. I book in for a night tour of Lima, which includes a trip to Parque de la Reserva, or as the locals refer to it, Parque de la Fuentes, Park of the Fountains. At night, the fountains are lit up, music is played and throngs of locals and tourists enjoy the show. It is remarkably similar to Font Magica in Barcelona, although Parque de la Reserva seems to be purpose built as an attraction rather than the city finding a way to regenerate an existing Palacio with fountains.

The fountains are the highlight of the tour, as there are 8 people crammed into a small minibus with not a lot of leg room, which has me wishing the city tour will be over quickly. Lima has some great buildings, amongst them the first apartment building in Lima, which is built in the Parisienne Haussman architectural style, has been spectacularly restored, and now houses a group of lawyers. Nuff said.

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